With the prevalence of technology, especially mobile, our lives and the lives of our kids are heavily influenced by an ever expanding new world. As parents it is necessary to know what kinds of apps our kids can and should be exposed to.

With summer, no doubt your kids will be playing more games on a device to fill the time for both you and them.

So how do you decide what games are best for them? Sure you can you use the rating system, that’s a great start. But what if you were to ask yourself the question, “How could I use these apps in a nontraditional way?”  You can be certain developers had a particular way they saw how their app would be used. But what if you saw things differently? What if you used it in a way that worked best for you rather than the other way around?

Here are some ideas on how to use apps as a tool to enhance your life and not just kill time playing Candy Crush.

1. Scheduling apps

Don’t just think of these as ways to remind you of work meetings and doctor appointments. Use a reminder or calendar app to get a pop up alert to go outside at a particular time each day. Maybe to end a task. We all have to do chores but we don’t want to do them all day. So set a timer and work hard for 20 minutes cleaning, picking up toys, etc. then switch gears and do something else. Maybe set a countdown app to remind you how many days you have left to read that book you wanted to finish this summer.

Whatever it is use these pop ups on your phone (or maybe even a service like Followupthen.com) to help you and your kids set and reach goals before school starts again.

2. Drawing Apps

This is great for sitting in a long drive thru lane, doctors waiting room, or the DMV (heaven forbid you have to be there with kids). Use a drawing app and make up games to pass the time. You could use it to take turns practicing reading, math, letters, or guessing animals you draw, even if you’re not an artist (see above picture).

Take it up a notch by adding some competition. Even without prizes, just make up a point system, they will get into it even more.

3. Short(er) games

One of the things I am not a fan of is the move toward never-ending games such as Minecraft. This keeps your child’s mind thinking about it even when it is shut off. They need an end point. I have no research to base this on other than the obvious reactions from my kids when they get frustrated after playing a game they can’t bring to completion. Instead choose interactive books, racing games, sports games, etc. Though this may seem counter intuitive, it will ultimately benefit you and your kids by encouraging a variety of activities throughout the day.

4. Made-up Adventure Games

Most phones are equipped with GPS and a camera. Do a scavenger hunt using Google Earth, or the photo app. Use a trail map app to create a hiking or biking adventure. The key here is to include your child in the process. This may seem time consuming and that is the point. You are prioritizing time spent with them with little effort preparing by yourself if you include them from the beginning.

This is by no means “the list” for how to use your smartphone and apps differently. In fact I bet you have some ideas that would put mine to shame. Take a minute and share them below.

Ricky Lewis is father to 4 and has worked with teens for the past 10 years. As the Executive Director of Teen Lifeline, he seeks to help parents and their kids Live Life Better.